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Hall to re-evaluate lakefront home values

Long-term study to start field work in next two months

POSTED: August 8, 2013 12:26 a.m.

Property values and ad valorem taxes may change for lakefront property owners after a long-term study of those properties by Hall County.

As county staff and consultants gear up to do a complete re-evaluation of lakefront property, real estate agents said the market is active, especially for luxury houses on Lake Lanier.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners awarded $327,500 to GMASS Inc., based in Dawsonville, in late July to reappraise between 6,500 and 6,800 properties on the lake, said Chief Appraiser Steve Watson.

GMASS does residential, land and commercial and industrial appraisals and has completed projects in many Georgia counties, including Gwinnett, Barrow, Dawson and Franklin. County documents show the company’s bid price was $538,800. County staff will do some of the work to bring down the cost, and the project also has a two-year time period, the bid summary said.

Field work will “probably” start in 30 to 60 days and the entire project will end with property tax valuations being sent out next May, Watson said.

There are about 75,000 parcels of land in the county, and tax assessors look at all property sales to determine what’s going on in the market and in any particular subdivision or area or within a property type. That’s done to understand how county property values are measuring up to home sales.

“Are we too high, are we too low, or are the property valuations not distributed equitably based on what the properties are selling for and what they measure up against, what our valuations are?” Watson said.

The economy and the real estate market is recovering somewhat, Watson and Regina Cochran, Norton Agency vice president and partner of residential sales, agreed. Cochran is part of the Abernathy Cochran Group within Norton.

Cochran said not all lakefront property would be luxury homes. She defined luxury homes on the lake as probably starting around $600,000 and going into the millions. Most buyers currently looking for lakefront property are looking for a wide or long view of the lake. Some of those properties are at the south end of Lanier and near the Chattahoochee Country Club in Gainesville, Cochran said.

“Meaning where they can see a distance,” she said. “And those are so few and far between that it is certainly causing those properties to go over $1 million.”

Variations of lakefront property affect its value, and amenities such as what part of the lake the property is on and whether there’s a boat dock are considered factors.

Land on the lake did suffer in the economic downturn, but county tax assessors have noticed that lakefront property sales were still higher in general than the county valuations, Watson said.

“The reason this sort of gets a little special attention is because it’s such a complex re-evaluation effort,” he said. “You have different attributes of lakefront property given that you have different types of houses, you have a tendency to have more ‘luxury homes’ on those properties, but at the same time you’ll have a really nice 10,000-or-15,000-square-foot house on a lot, then over here, two or three houses down, a little small 1,000-square-foot cabin.”

Cochran said real estate agents have seen a recent rise in home sales.

“This summer has been a nice, busy season, on the lake and off-lake,” she said. “It’s certainly no secret that if a home is well-maintained, if the home is priced correctly — as best as we can to price it correctly — it will find a buyer.”


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